Show Me the Money?

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Date: 
December 4, 2015
Author: 
Andrea Hall

"Show me the money," Tom Cruise famously said in the 1996 film Jerry Maguire. Now, three weeks after the Paris Attacks, counterterrorism "experts" across the pond, channel and elsewhere seem to be saying the same thing: find the funding sources for these terrorist groups, cut them off, and you'll solve the problem. 

Not so fast. An array of overbroad counter-terrorism financing laws and policies have not only failed to stop terrorism over the past decade and a half, these very laws may ironically be responsible for forcing money into unregulated channels. Financial institutions can hardly keep up. With the ever-increasing costs of compliance, and a steady increase in the number and volume of fines, is it any wonder that financial institutions are cutting off relationships with any customer suspected of being the least bit risky?

And now this from New York: Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state's Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) have proposed new anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regulations that would create personal liability for banks' compliance officers. NYDFS blames the heightened concern on "shortcomings in the transaction monitoring and filtering programs" and "lack of robust governance, oversight and accountability at senior levels." 

Do they really think this is going to stop terrorism? Turn a paperwork error into an all-expenses-paid trip to Rikers Island? More likely, it's going to stop smart people from working in the financial industry. If these regs are passed, folks may be leaving Wall Street for more appealing work in, say, telemarketing. 

Seriously, as we've been hollering for months, increased regulation leads to increased de-risking. That, in turn, increases the risk of driving money into unregulated, less transparent channels. As the author of this piece astutely asks, "Has anyone talked this out?"